It’s Saturday night at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and a huge girly squeal erupts from the mostly twentysomething crowd as Beyoncé’s hit “Single Ladies” blares from the sound system.
“When did the younger guys get so nelly?” sneers one mid-30s guy.
“We have the freedom to queen it up,” shrugs 18-year-old Ryerson student Mike Bullock, ignoring any misogyny or internalized homophobia in the question. “With society being more accepting, it’s much easier. I mean, there was no such thing as a murse 15 years ago and if some guy tried pulling one off he’d probably get lynched.”
“It’s easier to be a queeny teenager now,” agrees writer and comedian Paul Bellini. “Back then no one would defend you if you were effete. Kids today know they can get away with it.”
But just a year ago Bellini interviewed the Mr Leather Toronto winners who worried that too few younger guys are getting into leather.
Does more Britney mean less bootblacking?
“Youth and leather do not seem to mix,” says Bellini but he notes that the MLT 2009 competition had two contestants under 30.
“Leather guys do tend to be over 25,” says Woody’s manager Dean Odorico. “It’s kind of an acquired taste.”
Odorico has seen many a girly boy mature into a leather daddy during his nearly 20 years at Woody’s.
I tell him that my older role models are men like Ian McKellen and Edmund White and I just can’t picture them in leather jockstraps and harnesses.
“Then you’ll have to get into rubber,” Odorico teases.
I ask if he ever considered himself a nelly boy. He laughs.
“I have my moments.”
Butchness does come with age, says Bellini.
“It just looks better,” he says. “Flaming behaviour suits twinks and slender young drag queens but an aging screaming queen seems immature, unhinged.”
Still, Odorico points out that people are rarely what they seem.
“Some guys really butch it up but you get them in a circle with their girlfriends and they start dishing and it’s like Desperate Housewives,” he laughs.
Stereotypes aside, one thing connects the Barbra-loving leathermen at the Black Eagle to the slim boys who know all the Pussycat Dolls by name.
“I know I’m not the butchest guy ever but I’m still a man,” says Bullock. “We are men and we like men.”
Oooh, get her!